Posts Tagged ‘summer activities’

July 9th, 2012

A Great Beat the Heat Treat – Peach Gelato Ice Cream!

Everyone is trying to beat the heat this time of year. What better way to do that than to eat ice cream! Here is a great recipe for making ice cream without an ice cream maker.

A Great Beat the Heat Treat – Peach Gelato Ice Cream!

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 8

Serving Size: 1 cup

Calories per serving: 260 per 1/2 cup

Fat per serving: 15

A Great Beat the Heat Treat –  Peach Gelato Ice Cream!

This ice cream recipe doesn't need an ice cream maker. You can prepare it with the help of your freezer. It is a great summer time treat to keep everyone cool.


  • 3 cups sliced peeled peaches
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon peach schnapps liqueur, optional


  1. Place peaches and water in a large skillet; cook, uncovered, over medium heat until tender. Place in a food processor; cover and process until blended. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat milk to 175°; stir in sugar until dissolved. Whisk a small amount of the hot mixture into egg yolks. Return all to the pan, whisking constantly. Cook and stir over low heat until mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from the heat. Cool quickly by placing pan in a bowl of ice water; stir for 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the cream, peaches and liqueur if desired. Press waxed paper onto surface of custard. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  4. Here is how to make ice cream in your freezer, if you don't have the ice cream maker:
  5. Combine the ingredients for your ice cream mixture following the recipe. Chill the mixture over an ice bath. Meanwhile, freeze an empty freezer-safe shallow bowl or pan. Stainless steel works well for this.
  6. Place the cold mixture into the cold pan.
  7. Chill for about 20 minutes and check your ice cream. As the edges start to freeze, stir the mixture rapidly with a whisk or spatula to break up the partially frozen ice cream. This will help make it smooth and creamy. You cannot over-beat. Return to the freezer.
  8. Stir ice cream vigorously every 30 minutes until it is firmly frozen. This may be repeated 4 to 5 times until mixture is smooth and creamy. If ice cream becomes too hard, place it into the refrigerator until it becomes soft enough to beat and continue the process.
  9. Ripen the ice cream by storing it in a covered freezer container until ready to serve.
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June 20th, 2012

Some Low Cost Summer Activities for Families

Courtesy of: Valley City Times Record

homemade bubbles for summer funHere are a number of wonderful low cost summer activities for kids and families that help families keep their hard-earned money in their pockets.

You may want to take each one of these ideas and put them on 3 x 5 cards labeling whether the idea is for “outside” or “inside”.  Then label a box like a shoebox with “outside” and “inside” on the outside of the box.  Let each family member take a turn picking a card of the activity which will be done for that day. This is a great way to avoid activities that cost a lot of cash and a fun way to create a family plan.

Low or no cost outings and activities are something consider for your own kids or a group of friends getting together that will create fun and memories without heating up your wallet or credit card bills:

  • Visit a farm, pet store or the animal shelter
  • Visit a fire station
  • Have cooking lessons at home (bake bread, make homemade ice cream, grandma’s cookies)
  • Visit a pizza store (they’ll sometimes let the kids make one for little or nothing)
  • Visit a television station, radio station, or newspaper facility
  • Visit the Department of Conservation’s nature centers and enjoy educational exhibits
  • Learn to knit or do needlework
  • Get a giant piece of paper and colored pencils and draw your dream house interior view with all the details
  • Participate in free summer reading programs and story times offered by many local libraries
  • Visit zoos and museums that have free or reduced rates for kids on special days
  • Have paper airplane or paper boat races or try making and flying your own kites (books at the library have the instructions)
  • Put on a theatrical performance, a puppet show or a talent contest
  • Write and illustrate a story
  • Plant a small garden or container garden and watch it grow
  • Have sack, peanut or egg races
  • Plan a picnic as an activity
  • Hold a bring-a-dish block party
  • Rent a movie and have special “movie night” snacks
  • Take your kids on a tour of family history and photos
  • Search garage sales as family fun and walk away with a few really good deals
  • Play board games on rainy days
  • Go swimming at the local lake, pond or pool (you can ask for a one day guest pass at a local YMCA to check out the facilities)
  • Visit Vacation Bible Schools, Summer Bible Clubs, Kids Camps, Day Camps
  • Walk, hike, and enjoy nature
  • Go camping in the backyard

And last but certainly not least… make your own bubble solutions and spend hours dipping bubbles and playing with family and pets in the backyard!

Do-It-Yourself Bubble Solution

  • 1 tbsp Glycerine
  • 2 tbsp Dish Soap
  • 9 ounces water
  • Mix it all up (the glycerin added to the mixture is key)
    Pour it into small plastic bottles or a pie pan, grab your favorite wand and enjoy big beautiful bubbles.

Wishing you a very busy, rarely bored and not too costly summer!

This article is adapted from one written by Megan O’Neil-Haight, The University of Maryland Extension, and originally published in Delmarva Youth Magazine, July/August 2006.

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June 18th, 2012

Fun Summer Craft Ideas For Toddlers and Preschoolers

Here are several very fun and easy crafts to keep your toddler or preschooler engaged during the summer. They will love to gift these to mom and grandma!

Courtesy of:

Sand Box Painting

You don’t need a real sandbox for this sand-painting craft and it will give your kids hours of fun this summer.

You will need

  • Sandbox or large plastic tubs or dishpans filled halfway with sand (fill one pan for each child to avoid squabbles).
  • Spray bottles filled with water (You can pick these up for a $1 at any Dollar store
  • Food coloring
  • Small plastic sand shovels (Also available at your local Dollar store).


  1. Add 20 or more drops of food coloring to spray bottles to make colored water. Seat children in front of their sand-filled tub, or together in the sand box, and give them several bottles of colored water. As they spray, the sand will change color, creating a beautiful painting. If the kids want to ‘paint’ a new picture, direct them to mix under the top layer with their shovels.
  2. Safety note: Most commercially sold play sand is actually powder from quarried quartz – a substance declared by OSHA to cause lung disease. You can purchase safe sand from companies like

Coffee filter butterfly craft from Operation SantaButterflies

When your kids tire of chasing butterflies in the backyard, they can make some of their own to display inside.

What you need:

  • Round coffee filters
  • Spray bottle
  • Watercolor paints and brushes
  • Black pipe cleaners


  1. Spray water on to the coffee filters until they are wet enough to lay flat. Give your children the brushes and watercolors and let them paint ‘til their hearts’ content. The colors will run and blur, creating a beautiful pastel effect.
  2. Dry the filters/butterflies in a shady spot. Once completely dry, gather up the filter in the middle and use your pipe cleaner to create a body. Spread the wings and fly!

Kool-Aid Painting

Did you know that using Kool-Aid for summer crafts is 100 percent safe for kids?

What you need

  • Several packets of sugar-free Kool-Aid
  • White construction paper
  • Scotch tape
  • Ice cubes


  1. Tape a large sheet of construction paper to the table or floor.
  2. Sprinkle the paper with Kool-Aid and hand each child a cube of ice. Instruct them to move the ice over the Kool-Aid powder, turning it to liquid. Keep “painting” until the ice is fully melted to make a sweet-smelling, watercolor masterpiece.
  3. Let dry and take home to mom or send to Grandma!

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June 11th, 2012

Cheap or Free Summer Fun For Kids

Cheap or Free Summer Fun for Kids - Operation SantaHow to find free and cheap things for kids to do this summer.

The school year is at an end and many parents are faced with the same dilemma they faced last year, but more than likely with less available money to spend on outings and vacations. The good news is that there are plenty of fun, free and cheap resources available for the enterprising parent.

Go online and check with your local library and parks department.

  • Many libraries offer summer reading clubs where your children can earn prizes while maintaining those important reading skills.
  • Many towns and cities run day camps in the local park where your children can take part in sports and arts and crafts for free, or for a small fee.
  • Don’t forget our nations wonderful National Parks where you can take guided tours and sneak a bit of history into your summer outings.

Local industries may offer free tours. For instance in my town, there is a wonderful bread company that gives amazing tours of their facility. And it smells wonderful! Go here for a free list of factory tours in the United States. You can also check with Lowe’s and Home Depot to see when they are hosting free make-and-take craft events.

50 Free or Cheap Things to Do With Kids

By Cameron Huddleston, Contributing Editor,

Plant a garden. My kids love planting seeds in the spring and watching them grow through the summer.

Have a water balloon fight. Let the kids toss water balloons at each other or you. My youngest daughter loves the chance to soak her dad.

Go bowling. The Kids Bowl Free program allows kids to play two free games a day at participating bowling centers.

Watch birds. My friend and her two sons take their binoculars and a book of their state’s native birds to the backyard and try to identify as many birds as possible.

Create a water park in the backyard. Turn on the sprinkler, fill the baby pool, get out the Slip ‘N Slide and let the kids have fun cooling off on a hot day.

Take a bubble bath outside. If the kids are tiring of the inflatable pool, make it fun again by filling it with bubbles — and tossing small toys in for them to find under all the foam.

Visit the public library. Public libraries often offer free summer reading programs that include workshops, movies, children’s theater, puppet shows and more. Or just check out how-to books so you and your kids can learn something new together.

Start a book club. Create a summer reading list for your kids, then discuss the books after they read them. Invite their friends to participate, too.

Listen to a concert in park. Many cities have free summer concert series during the day or evening.

Go to a museum. If you have a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card, you can get a free ticket on the first Saturday of every month to 150 participating museums (in 31 states). Check out the Bank of America Museums on Us program for more details. Also check with museums in your hometown to see if they offer any freebies for kids.

Participate in a workshop. Home Depot has free workshops for kids ages 5 to 12 on the first Saturday of every month between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. Kids make a craft they can keep. Kids can build a wooden project at Lowe’s free kids clinics on weekends.

See free or cheap movies. Many theaters have free or cheap ($1 to $2) showings of family-friendly movies on weekday mornings. Check the Web sites of theaters in your city. Many advertise their summer movie programs on their homepage. Otherwise, check the site’s specials or values page.

Make a movie with your video recorder, smart phone or iPad. If your computer came with free movie-editing software (most do), upload the video and add special effects to it.

Stage a play. If you’re not technically inclined or don’t have movie-making equipment, encourage the kids to create a play instead.

Be Jackson Pollock (the artist known for his drip/splatter painting). Grab a large piece of material, sheet or canvas and let the kids splatter it with paint outside.

Pitch a tent in the backyard and roast hot dogs and marshmallows if you have a fire pit (or on the grill).

Collect bugs. Send the kids out at night with jars to catch (and release) lightning bugs, or let them search for creepy crawlies during the day.

Take a hike along nature trails or at a nearby forest.

Play in a creek. Our daughters loved wading and catching tadpoles in a creek that runs through a public park in our county so much that they asked to go back the next day.

Have a scavenger hunt. Hide items in your house or yard, then give the kids a list of the items and see who can find them the fastest.

Create comic books, then share them with the family.

Make a cardboard box house and let the kids decorate it with paint or markers. My kids spend hours in their box house.

Build a fort. If you don’t have a big box, build a fort with sheets and blankets instead.

Invent something using old parts or things from around the house that you don’t need.

Decorate windows with washable window markers.

Set up a spa. Paint your kids’ nails, do their hair and apply makeup — or let them provide spa services to you.

Visit the fire station. My kids loved visiting the fire station, where fire fighters would let them sit in their big fire engines and load them up with stickers, coloring books and more.

Conduct a science experiment. My kids never seem to tire of the science experiments their dad conducts (even the simple “volcano” made with baking soda, vinegar and food coloring). So pick up a book on kid-friendly science experiments at the library or bookstore and amaze your children.

Launch a rocket. Probably the best $15 we spent was on the Stomp Rocket, which has four foam rockets kids can propel into the air by stomping on a launch pad. Whenever my children’s friends visit, they compete to see who can send the rockets the farthest down the hallway.

Bake. Let the kids help you make cookies, a cake, anything. We fill plastic condiment dispensers with pancake batter and let kids create shapes in the frying pan (we do the flipping).

Go on a picnic. A meal is more fun on a blanket in the park, woods or even the backyard.

Fly a kite after your picnic (or anytime there’s a good breeze).

Create obstacle course in the backyard and let the kids race.

Visit a construction site. For little boys (or girls) who love hammering, sawing and big machines, let them be mesmerized by all the action at a construction site.

Have a dance party. Play your kids’ favorite tunes and let them boogie.

Play in rain. The kids will love the chance to do something that’s taboo.

Have a tea party. Pull out those fancy silver trays or plates you never use (or stick with plastic for toddlers), pile on some cookies and treats, and get dressed for high tea.

Participate in nature programs. City park systems that have nature centers usually offer free programs for children that let them explore the outdoor world.

Play hide and seek. Its’ a favorite at our house, and you can do it indoors or outdoors.

Build ice castles. Freeze water in plastic containers of various sizes then let the kids take the ice blocks outside and create castles with them.

Play charades. My family played this when I was a teen, and we’d try to come up with impossibly difficult things to act out. If you have an iPad, download the free Charadium app — it’s loads of fun.

Have an egg toss, then hose the kids down after (if your kids are squeamish, avoid this activity).

Visit a pet store. Think of it as a mini petting zoo. Just warn the kids before you go that you won’t be bringing home a pet (unless you actually want to). You also could take the kids to the humane society, which might need volunteers to walk the dogs.

Take a trip to the dollar store. My sister used to take my kids to the dollar store for a little math lesson. She would tell them how much they could spend, and they had to find items that didn’t exceed that amount.

Make instruments. Rainsticks are easy to assemble by filling a paper-towel tube with rice and crumpled wiring (or something to make the rice move slower) and covering the ends with paper and tape. Or get really creative and create enough instruments for an entire band, as these Florida high-school students did with items found in the trash (see ‘The Garbage Men’ Rock a Trashy Sound)

Learn a language. Check with your public library to see if offers free programs online. Or visit YouTube and type in, for example, Spanish lessons.

Travel the world without leaving home. Learn about other countries (using Wikipedia) and make their traditional meals (with help from the kids) for dinner.

Create a driving obstacle course with orange cones for teen drivers and award them points for accuracy (not speed).

Look at the stars. You can download an app that helps you identify constellations — or check out a book from the library. If there’s an observatory or planetarium in your town, see if it offers free shows.

Teach your kids money skills. See Kiplinger’s Editor Janet Bodnar’s list of games, Web sites and books that teach personal finance.


August 19th, 2011

End of Summer Activities

End of Summer Activities for Kids from Operation Letter to SantaSummer is not quite over, being that it is only mid-August, but the school year begins soon, effectively spelling the end of long lazy summer days for most kids. Try these nine family activities for an exciting end to your summer.

1. Make a memory book. Have everyone in the family get together and make a memory book or scrapbook. Collect photos from your summer or other scraps and artwork that would fit into a book of memories. This will give you a lasting memento of the good times you had over the summer.

2. Have a splashing good time. The summer usually means a good time around water. Throw a pool party or play around in the sprinklers. Have a water balloon fight with your family. Involve water while you still can, before the cold days of winter arrive.

3. Make summertime recipes. Pick out your favorite summertime recipes and make food and drinks with your family. Start with drinks like iced tea and lemonade, or pick another family favorite that you associate with summer. Then, make summer treats or throw a barbeque.

4. Throw a summer party. Get together with your family and throw an end of the summer bash for all of your friends. Your family can plan the party together, cook the food and make decorations. Take lots of photos of your party so you can remember the good time you had.

5. Go to the zoo. Summer is a great time to enjoy the zoo during your free time. Go to the zoo with your family one last time before school takes away much of that free time. It’s also a great way to learn about many different kinds of animals.

6. Play video games. Video games can be fun for the whole family. Some game consoles even have games that’ll get the whole family active. Choose a sports game, a family board game or a racing game and compete against your family for an exciting time together.

7. Go to the beach. The end of the summer might be one of your last opportunities to hit the beach this year. Wear sunscreen to protect your skin. Bring plenty of towels and beach toys. Build a sand castle with your kids. Bury one of your family members in the sand.

8. Get ready for school. Enjoy getting ready for the school year with your family. Find the fun in shopping for clothing and school supplies. Get the whole family involved. Allow your kids to make some of the clothing decisions and to pick out some of their favorite school supplies.

9. Relax at home. Enjoy some quiet time at home before the craziness of the school year starts. Order takeout and talk around the dinner table. Rent some family friendly movies to enjoy while you beat the heat together.

Pick one of these, or come up with your own end of summer activity ideas. The most important thing is that you take the time to enjoy your family. The end of summer can be an exciting time for your family to bond and experience priceless memories.

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August 17th, 2011

Rolling In The Grass – Remember When?

Rolling in the Grass - Outdoor family fun from Operation Letters To SantaThere was a time not too long ago when families didn’t have to go out and buy equipment to become fit. Time was spent rolling in the grass, playing in the yard, or jumping around on the floor instead of watching television or getting hooked on computer games. While it may seem those times are past, it’s not too late to remember when family fitness was naturally fun and look for some ways to make it that way again.

  • Put on some old play clothes that you don’t mind getting grass stained and spend some outside family fitness time with the kids. Play in the yard. Grab a football and toss it around, or get out the mitts and baseball and play a game of catch. Volleyball, badminton, or tennis are excellent ways to enjoy the outdoors, and the workout you get will rival anything you’ll find in the gym.
  • Teach your kids how to do a somersault. Somersaults are simple for even very young children. In case you’ve forgotten how, you simply have your child stand on a flat section of grass and lean over slightly with arms outstretched. He or she then places their hands on the ground, and tucking the head in close to the chest to prevent injury, they just “roll” forward landing in a sitting position. Children can also turn a somersault from a sitting position once they get used to “flipping” over. It’s very similar, just remind them to not let their heads touch the floor to avoid injury.
  • Another great outdoor activity is turning cartwheels. Little girls, especially love this (but boys do, too!). Cartwheels are a basic gymnastics move and many children are able to do these at an early age as well, though they do require a little more coordination that somersaults. Turning cartwheels is great for strengthening the upper body and developing skills needed for later gymnastic efforts including handsprings or walk-offs. Allow plenty of room for turning a cartwheel. While a front to back cartwheel is common, side-to-side cartwheels are more popular so you can start with those. The method for doing cartwheels is lowering first one hand, then the other, then lowering one foot and then the other. Think of the spokes of a bicycle. You’ll become that wheel with your arms and legs the spokes. For the best results, keep your arms, legs, and back straight and strong as you turn. Cartwheels may take some practice, but even if children can’t turn them fully, they’ll have fun and get lots of exercise playing in the grass and rolling around on the ground.

There are hundreds of ways to play outdoors with the kids and get in a great workout at the same time. Just remember all the fun you used to have as a child and give your own children a taste of the same simple pleasures. You’ll be building family ties, strengthening the bond with your children, and helping them to develop healthy living habits at the same time. Nothing could be better than that!

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August 5th, 2011

Back-to-School: Prepping Your Kids for the Change

Back to School Tips from Operation Letters to SantaEvery child loves summer vacation. They’re free from schoolwork. They can wake up as late as they want to. And, they are free to hang out with their friends on weekdays. Summer vacation is truly the most exciting part of every child’s year.

Every summer vacation, though, must come to an end. You can avoid an abrupt ending and a house full of cranky children if you start the back-to-school preparation process a few weeks before class starts.

Utilize the tips below to minimize the sting of going back to school on your children.

1. Adjust their sleep schedule. Wean your kids into a school-ready sleeping schedule by making them fall asleep an hour earlier each week. Continue cutting back their bedtime until their sleeping patterns match those they’ll maintain throughout the school year.

2. Assign homework. It’s true that kids dislike homework. But it’s important to keep their minds sharp. On the Internet, you can find many places that offer free downloadable worksheets for children of all ages to complete outside of school. Websites like,, and provide a wide variety of options. Keep it lighthearted. Try to assign fun homework assignments and be lenient in deadlines. After all, it is summer vacation and your kids deserve to spend some of their time relaxing. One assignment per subject that is due at the end of the week is plenty.

3. Tighten curfews. If you’re like most parents, you likely extend your children’s curfews throughout the summer. A few weeks before classes begin, be stricter about the time your children need to be home and which days they can go out with their friends.  Allow your children to keep their summer curfew active on Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday through Thursday, implement a “school-ready” curfew. This will mentally prepare your children for the new set of rules that will be in effect during the school year.

4. Make the change exciting. To your children, August is just the beginning of another boring school year. However, as a parent, you can’t help but marvel at the speed your babies are maturing! Help them see what you see by reminding them of all of the opportunities that will soon be available to them in the new school year.

Be firm about your decisions when preparing your kids for the change of going back to school. Most children are resistant when you first begin to implement these changes. However, after about a week or so, most children begin to accept the new routines.

Remember to take your children’s feelings and desires into account when designing your routine for getting ready to return to school. Kids have unique needs, and it’s important to let them know that their opinions are valuable. Be willing to give in a little and you’ll often receive a great deal of cooperation in return.

By implementing these changes, you’ll prepare your children well for going back to school. When school begins, it will be less of a shock to your children and the transition to a new daily routine will be an easier one for all.

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